George “Boy George” Rivera wasn’t one to go with the flow. Instead of selling crack in the 1980s, in Manhattan and the South Bronx, he flipped the script, selling vials of heroin he called “Obsession.” During the summer of 1987, according to court records, Rivera’s “highly structured, street-level heroin distribution organization” moved $100,000 worth of the drug per week, and dragged countless youths into addiction while propelling the flamboyant 19-year-old Puerto Rican to multimillionaire status.
Using a corporate front, Tuxedo Enterprises, Rivera modeled his drug empire after a legal entity. Keeping with the business-inspired theme, he offered cash bonuses, gifts and Disney World vacations to keep his dealers loyal. “He was ahead of his time,” says Don Diva Magazine editor-in-chief Tiffany Chiles, referring to the drug entrepreneur’s youth and business acumen. “To operate on that level as a young man took a great amount of thought, action, vision and determination.” Far from being destined for the Fortune 500, though, the self-styled CEO had been linked to 12 homicides by 1988, and the feds were actively building their case.
THE PRESS CALLED ME THE PUERTO RICAN JAMES BOND BECAUSE OF THE GADGETS IN MY CAR.
A 14-count indictment, filed in June 1990, charged Rivera and his crew with a heroin conspiracy, revealing a world of lavish parties, limousines, women and unbelievable wealth. From the poverty-ridden streets of the South Bronx to ski weekends in the Poconos, Rivera had amassed a fortune. He owned commercial real estate and a mansion in Puerto Rico, a stash house in Normandie Court on the Upper East Side — where he stored garbage bags full of money — and a fleet of customized cars equipped with 007-style gadgetry to elude law enforcement.
“The press called me the Puerto Rican James Bond because of the gadgets in my car,” Rivera says, adding that the law would still be chasing him if he had made it to one of his cars the night of his arrest. One Mercedes had $50,000 in upgrades, including a license plate that slid out of view, radar detectors, a strobe light that blinded anyone tailing him, a device that squirted oil from the tailpipe, a switch that, when flipped, triggered a spray of nail-like tacks from the trunk, and concealed compartments in the door panels and floor for hiding weapons, drugs and cash.
Rivera’s $140,000 customized Porsche had multiple cellphones, a 10-track CD player, a 630-watt stereo, a color TV and VCR, custom rugs, ostrich-skin interior, an ebony finish and the requisite concealed compartments. Rivera spoiled himself so much that he once sent a girlfriend to San Francisco to fetch a pair of Nikes he wanted that weren’t available yet in New York.